Sitting in the shade of the Revelstoke RCMP detachment, a circle of people slowly stitch-up holes in ripped fabrics. This Mending Circle is both literal and symbolic. While peacefully fixing their clothing in front of the station, demonstrators urge RCMP forces to begin mending their own relationship with Fairy Creek protestors.
Organized by local activist group Old Growth Revylution, the RCMP Mending Circle took place on Aug. 25 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Stationed on the Revelstoke RCMP detachment lawn, demonstrators quietly chatted and stitched in solidarity with Fairy Creek land defenders.
“We are aligning ourselves with our friends, our fellow forest defenders at Fairy Creek, asking that RCMP stop the violence against forest defenders,” explains event organizer and Old Growth Revylution volunteer Jamie Kraus.
At one point, an RCMP officer checks in. Although slightly tense, the brief conversation is casual. This interaction is a stark comparison to RCMP interventions further west.
Violent arrest footage prompts social media backlash
This week, violent arrest footage from the Fairy Creek blockades triggered provincial outrage. According to a series of RCMP releases, approximately 91 protestors were arrested from Aug. 20 to Aug. 24. Although those releases indicate that only one individual required EHS assistance during the mentioned timeframe, surfaced videos detail the violent nature of RCMP interactions with protestors.
Warning: the following video contains scenes of violence.
The arrests continue at #FairyCreek. This was captured on my #GoPro while I was photographing. Police then denied me access shortly after these moments. #rcmp #CivilDisobedience #OldGrowth pic.twitter.com/DKvVnLilY3
— Jen Osborne (@RealJenOsborne) August 21, 2021
Today at #FairyCreek, a member of the ERT who clearly needs to be treated for PTSD instead of given a can of bear spray and told to use it on non-violent members of the public, sprayed me in the face for trying to document a violently executed arrest. #bcpoli#climateaction pic.twitter.com/AnZlBviB4v
— Earthly Pursuits (@earthly_p) August 21, 2021
As videos increasingly circulate online, B.C. Green Party Caucus members are speaking out.
In an Aug. 23 Facebook post, Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, shared a video condemning the RCMP’s actions and lack of provincial involvement.
“No matter what you think about the forestry policy, the interactions between police and peaceful protesters in our country, in Canada, is inappropriate,” Olsen states in the video, then calling on Premier John Horgan and the B.C. NDP to take further action against the RCMP.
Revelstoke activist notes the deterioration of RCMP and protestor relations in B.C.
Sitting amongst the RCMP Mending Circle is Virginia Thompson, an Old Growth Revylution volunteer and long-term environmental activist. As she calmly sits in her fold-up chair, the same one she brings to her grandchildren’s soccer games, she recalls her interactions with RCMP over the years.
Notably, Thompson participated in the 1993 Clayoquot Sound sit-in. There, she interacted with RCMP, and remembers those moments vividly.
“We would get there before the logging trucks, and we would be all over the road. You could hear a pin drop, it was so nonviolent,” Thompson recalls. She elaborates that RCMP read the injunction after their arrival, then offered an opportunity to step away and avoid arrest, a process she describes as “orderly” and “respectful.”
Now, Thompson uses extremely different language to describe police interactions with protestors. She criticizes the violence and exclusion zones that have plagued the Fairy Creek movement, something she never witnessed in her early activist years.
When asked for any theories about the change in RCMP behaviour, Thompson took a careful moment to gather herself.
“I think it’s a sign of our society getting more cynical,” Thompson reflects. “Government, corporations and globalization are much more powerful, and the police are their instrument. I really think it’s a symptom of our society moving to the right, in general terms.”